Dunbar senior point guard Maurice Barksdale made one free throw after another during the closing moments against Douglass last night at Morgan State's Hill Field House.
Each one sapped hope from a Ducks program that has dominated rivals for the past season and a half. "I tried to concentrate on making my free throws because I saw the impact it had on their team," said Barksdale, who was 9-for-11 from the line in the fourth quarter and 17-for-22 for the night.
"As I made them, I saw their motivation start to leave them."
Barksdale almost single-handedly destroyed the Ducks' 46-game winning streak.
The senior's game-high 29 points included at least six in each period as he led the ninth-ranked Poets to a come-from-behind, 70-57 victory over Douglass before 1,942.
Douglass had a shot this season at reaching Dunbar's 52-game winning streak (from 1990 to 1992), second longest in the area only to the Poets' run of 59 straight (from 1981 to 1983).
"We wanted to preserve the streak," Dunbar coach Eric Lee said.
Poets center Michael Thompson grabbed nine rebounds, blocked four shots and scored nine points, and Byron Selby came off the bench to grab seven rebounds and score six points, all in the second half of a victory that avenged two losses last winter to the defending Class 3A state champion.
Brandon Russell scored 19 points for top-ranked Douglass (18-1), which lost for the first time since March 2001, when Southern-Baltimore defeated the West Baltimore school in the Class 4A South region quarterfinals.
The game was a return to glory, and to an old venue where Dunbar traditionally has dominated. Poets faithful, including former Dunbar coach Bob Wade, can recall only one time when the Poets lost a game at Morgan, to Lake Clifton in the early 1980s.
"Maurice did a heck of a job on us. He must have gone to the line 20 times," said Douglass coach Rodney Coffield, who played for Wade at Dunbar until 1980-81. "We played terrible tonight. They outhustled us, they outshot us, they out-rebounded us."
En route to its 28-0 season a year ago, Douglass dominated the Poets (19-2 this year) twice on their East Baltimore court.
But it was a different story last night on the neutral court at Morgan State. "I played on Dunbar's '84-85 team. I don't remember who we played, but we were successful that night," said Lee, recalling a game under Wade at Morgan. "Tonight, the guys came out and played well. They stayed patient, and they scored."
Down 39-35 at halftime, the Poets scored the first eight points after the break. A jumper by Herman Hayes (11 points) tied the game at 39, and his subsequent three-pointer gave Dunbar its second lead - its first since early in the first period - 42-39 with six minutes left in the third.
Russell's three-pointer tied the game at 42 with 4:15 left in the period, but a free throw by Thompson started an 8-0 run by the Poets, including four points by Barksdale and a three-pointer by Byron Roundtree for a 50-42 lead 1:37 before the final period.
Ahead 52-46 entering the fourth, Dunbar did not immediately pull away. Jermaine Bolden's three-point play had Douglass within 56-53 with 3:47 left to play, but a decisive 9-2 run gave the Poets a 65-55 lead with 2:01 to play. It was capped by Selby's layup off an assist from Barksdale.
"I'm the team's scrapper. When the coach calls my number, I come in and do the job," said Selby, whose effort began an exodus of Douglass' fans. "This is one of those games that you dream of playing in - big crowd, bright lights. We wanted to win real bad tonight, and we came out and got the job done".
Derek Toney contributed to this article.